Friday, October 6, 2017

Detailed Photos of Insects

Photographer Levon Biss came up with a way to photograph insects in extremely high resolution.

Biss teamed up with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to record some of the best specimens from their collection.

The process overcomes the problem of shallow depth of field inherent in all macrophotography by taking thousands of exposures as the camera moves in tiny increments through the Z dimension. The focused layers are then stacked digitally in the computer.

In addition, the insect is shot in as many as 30 sections, with different lighting setups for each section. 

Insects are covered with finely textured microstructures, and the function of those tiny structures is still not completely understood.

According to Dr James Hogan of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, “It’s thought that microscopic structures alter the properties of an insect’s surface in different ways, reflecting sunlight, shedding water, or trapping air. The evolutionary process of natural selection should account for all this wonderful diversity of microstructures, but for many species their specific adaptive function is still unknown. By observing insects in the wild, studying museum collections, and developing new imaging techniques we will surely learn more about these fascinating creatures and close the gaps in our current understanding.”

After compiling the huge image files, he printed them out in a large format for museum exhibitions (The show is currently in Basel through October 29, 2017).

Here's a behind-the-scenes video (link to YouTube). On Biss's website, you can zoom deeply into the surface textures, like a drone flying over an alien landscape.
Book: Microsculpture: Portraits of Insects
Microsculpture website


Meera Rao said...

Amazing ! thanks for sharing :)

Don Ketchek said...

With the advent of digital photography and being able to use computers for post processing, photo stacking is becoming more popular. For those interested, an internet search of photo stacking will reveal much info. While not doing anything nearly as elaborate as the example shown, I have done some photos stacking experiments recently while taking pics of flowers. While having some parts of a photo in focus, while others are not, is often desirable, sometimes you want the entire subject in focus which is often difficult in close up and macro photography. Photo stacking can also be used in landscape photography when you can't otherwise get a close up object (flowers, for example) in focus at the same time as the distant scene. I know of at least one camera that will do limited photo stacking in-camera (the Olympus E-M1 will stack 8 shots when using specific lenses). That camera also does photo bracketing where it can take anywhere from three up to hundreds of shots automatically, changing the focus distance with each shot. For photo bracketing, you would need to do the stacking with additional software. There are freeware stacking programs and others that are less than $100.

Jennifer Rose said...

those are really amazing :)

Roberto Quintana said...

WOW! These are gorgeous! The lighting and extreme focus really brings out the texture. The aesthetic appeal of each element having an independent light-source is remarkable, and is a completely opposite lighting strategy than the conventional approach for a realistic or naturalistic object/scene, as for a painting or illustration. It’s almost a Surreal or a Magical-Realism approach. Very effective! -RQ

Teri said...

Thank you for posting this James! I love this exhibition and project so much!